RETURN OF THE SILVER ARROWS
in which its two cars were pulled out of the
race when Klaus Niedzwiedz suffered a
high-speed tire blow-out on the Mulsanne.
By Le Mans, Sauber had a new, British
team manager. Dave Price joined from
the Richard Lloyd Racing Porsche team
after being approached by Welti in the
pitlane during the Silverstone 1000km
meeting in early May. He recalls joining a
team that had yet to organize itself in a
way befitting of a full-on factory team.
“It was very small when I first went there,”
recalls Price. “Leo was doing everything –
the designer and engineering both cars. And
as we know, designers don’t make very good
race engineers! There was a chief mechanic
and two mechanics per car. Probably 12
people in total, including Peter and Max.
There really wasn’t enough personnel and
Peter, bless him, was quite parochial in his
thinking, but he was happy to let me get
on with it. Leo was, too, because I freed
him up to work more on the design side.”
There was also a link-up with Price’s
fledgling DPS Composites company,
which started making parts for the C9.
“We were making bits that were
definitely better than they had at the time,”
he says. “We tidied the car up quite a bit.”
Ress agrees with Price’s take on
proceedings: “I didn’t have to do everything
any more, so I could focus on the detail
development,” he says. “Our improvement
that year came through many little details.”
Ress recalls that a damper test with
the team’s supplier, Bilstein, after Le Mans
was the turning point of the season.
“We always struggled with the rear
Michelin tires because of the torque of
the engine,” he explains. “But we were
able to be much more consistent after
this test. That made a huge difference.”
Sauber ran two cars in each of the six
WSPC rounds after Le Mans, winning four
of them. Schlesser and Baldi took second
and third in the points, respectively,
behind Jaguar’s Martin Brundle.
The 1989 season would be different.
Very different. The arrival of the M119
engine, effectively a four-valve version of
its M117 predecessor, was a factor. Price
describes it as “more powerful and better
on consumption,” but Ress believes the
importance of the latest iteration of the
big V8 has been overplayed somewhat.
“The engine was more efficient, and
more power always helps, but at the first
test it was actually slower,” he recalls.
(LEFT, left to right)
Team founder Peter
and long-time Sauber
team manager Max
Welti take a breather
from dominating 1989.
Sauber entered three C9s for the ’ 89 24 Hours of Le Mans
which, due to a tussle between the ACO and FIA over TV rights
and timing-equipment partners, was a non-championship race.
The Mercedes-powered C9s qualified first, second and a lowly
11th. But it was the latter car – the one-off No. 63 driven by
Jochen Mass, Stanley Dickens and Manuel Reuter (BELOW) –
which finished ahead in the race, leading home a Sauber 1- 2-5.
Outside of Le Mans, in the World Sports-Prototype Championship,
Sauber won seven of eight races, including three 1-2s – the
UK’s Donington Park (BELOW) being its third and final lockout.
1989: LE MANS GOLD FOR SILVER